Letters: Rentals needed in Richmond

Dear Editor,

Re: “Activist pushes for city centre rental,” News, Dec. 26

I read with interest the Dec. 26 article about John Roston and how he would like to see all of the Lansdowne mall redevelopment become rental housing. I believe there is a lot of merit in his proposal.

Increasing the stock of purpose-built rental housing would be of great benefit to the community. This type of stock exists expressly to be rented out. In contrast, condo developments allow private owners to let units stay empty if they choose.  Many strata bylaws also limit the number of rentals.

As Mr. Roston states, investors across North America are snapping up large purpose-built rental projects because of the guaranteed long-term rental income.  Low interest rates, high rents and low vacancy rates all make for a good opportunity to invest in rental housing. If units are built to rent, they will be rented.

 According to the Metro Vancouver Housing Data Book 2019 (available online) there are 18,918 renter households in Richmond or about nine per cent of all residents. The median income for Richmond renters is about $49,000 per year so an affordable rent is about $1,225 per month (30 per cent of income). Combine this with a rental vacancy rate of 0.7 per cent, and there is not much choice for Richmond residents in this income range.

Among earners in this range are people who provide necessary services in our hospital and care homes and in fire, safety and emergency professions. 

Additional information in the Data Book states Richmond has an average of 1,995 housing starts per year, but only 222 are purpose-built rental. Most of these are secondary suites and market rental and only 129 units of social housing were built in the last five years.

There is also a dearth of below-market rentals for the income earners described above. Unless incomes rise dramatically in the short term, Richmond needs to allow a large influx of purpose-built rental housing to accommodate people who live, work and play here.  

I would challenge city councillors to be brave and zone the Lansdowne site to rental tenure zoning and invite developers to build a mix of affordable, below market and market rentals at Lansdowne. A public hearing on rezoning will be coming to council in the spring. I encourage readers who care about housing to let council know how you feel.

Deidre Whalen


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